STONINGTON — The town’s Water Pollution Control Authority said Tuesday it would consider the creation of an inter-municipal sewage agreement with the Town of North Stonington. Under such an agreement, North Stonington could potentially pay a buy-in amount, and ongoing premiums that would exceed Stonington users’ rates, plus a percentage of the cost of ongoing infrastructure repairs and improvements.
The discussion came in reaction to a recent North Stonington proposal offering the town a one-time payment of $1 million in exchange for sending 100,000 gallons of sewage per day to Stonington’s treatment plant in Pawcatuck.
Douglas Nettleton, director of the authority, said the offer represented a way for the town to finance its three sewage plants’ continuing needs for upgrades and maintenance.
“We have three systems and 16 pump stations and bridge crossings and all kinds of stuff that can go wrong,” he said. “The problem is I can’t be told no — when I have something that has to be fixed, we have to fix it.”
Authority member Lynn Young, who is also a member of the Board of Finance, said $1 million would not compensate Stonington taxpayers for the original cost and loan interest payments on the construction of the Pawcatuck plant in the late 1970s.
Young said that, according to two town finance directors, Stonington taxpayers paid $3.6 million extra to build a larger plant to accommodate 200,000 gallons of sewage per day from North Stonington.
“Our taxpayers picked up the tab to reserve that amount of space for North Stonington,” she said.
Young said she was open to negotiations but would not accept a flat $1 million payment for North Stonington’s use of the Pawcatuck plant because it did not adequately compensate Stonington taxpayers.
North Stonington has never tied into Stonington’s system but is asking again because of potential development on Route 2 north of I-95.
Young said she would rather see development on Route 2 in Stonington.
“Our last place for good development is Route 2 in Pawcatuck and a developer won’t go there if they can move to North Stonington and they have 400 acres that are far easier to build on than ours because they have sewer there,” she said. “That’s a lost opportunity cost.”
Nettleton also said he has received phone calls from companies interested in developing land along Route 2 that want to pay Stonington directly to tie into the town’s sewer system.
“It sounds like they’re willing to pay for that opportunity,” he said. “The way they look at it is they can’t develop those properties without us.”
Richard Cody, authority chairman, said he was interested in devising a simple agreement in which North Stonington would pay for a percentage of the infrastructure in proportion to its sewage flow, and a premium over Stonington ratepayers’ rates, among other costs.
He said North Stonington’s $1 million buy-in offer was incomplete.
“If we’re going to sit down and be serious about it, we’re going to talk about not only the buy-in fee, but user rates and how to deal with repairs to infrastructure over the terms of the agreement,” he said.
Authority member Peter Balestracci said Stonington’s offers and counteroffers to North Stonington have gone unanswered in the past.
Young repeated that North Stonington has offered to tie in Stonington’s system several times in the past but hasn’t followed through, adding that she didn’t want the financial burden to be on Stonington to do studies or create an agreement.
Authority members unanimously agreed that they wanted to see the two towns move forward with an agreement this time around. The issue is expected to be on the authority's agenda next month.